Exchanging bloody limbs for bouncing boobs sounds like a fair trade, right?
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is the sequel to a port of a revision of a remake of an adaptation of an arcade original. Its convoluted lineage is only surpassed by its convoluted and incomprehensible storyline. Luckily, making sense of the plot isn’t what the Ninja Gaiden series is about. Instead, the heart of the series is in its grueling combat and slick combo strings. Everything else is just window dressing.
[image1]When the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma released on PS3 in 2007, it brought the series into the current HD generation, adding a few new bells and whistles for good measure. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 attempts to do the same thing, introducing co-op play, improved graphics, and a few new playable characters. On the whole, it’s a pretty package, but considering that this revised version is arriving well over a year after the original, I expected much more.
Thankfully the core gameplay mechanics remain intact and unchanged. Ninja Gaiden 2 made the series much more accessible than its formidable forebear, and Sigma 2 follows suit. Combo timing is much more forgiving than it was in Ninja Gaiden Black and Sigma, and the enemies are much more standoffish. In the first game, death was doled out as generously as the opinions of political pundits. This time around, you’ll be handing out a lot more Double-N tickets to the Number Nine than you’ll be receiving.
However, those of you who have played the 360 version will notice some changes right away. First, the game looks prettier. Textures in particular have been spruced up for the PS3—an impressive feat since the framerate is a near-constant 60fps throughout. Team Ninja deserves serious credit for privileging framerate above other graphical details. Few developers will make that tradeoff, but seeing NGS2 in motion immediately made me wonder why more developers don’t do likewise. Sure, fancy lighting effects and texture shading might get tossed by the wayside, but it’s worth it to see an action game running so buttery smooth.
Bafflingly, the over-the-top bloodbaths of Ninja Gaiden 2 have been completely scrapped. In place of bloody stumps and spurting gore fountains from headless torsos, we see a pleasant purple mist emanating from dying bodies. None of this affects gameplay in any way, but it seriously detracts from the experience. I’m not a bloodthirsty gamer by nature, but seeing purplish tendrils coming out of my fallen enemies is like seeing a black bar over a nipple. Either show it or don’t, but don’t constantly remind me of what I’m not seeing.
[image2]Speaking of nipples, this game has finally found the perfect use for the Sixaxis motion controls. During the levels in which you play one of three female characters, you can move and shake your controller to shake their boobs. All the straight men in the room say it with me: “Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.”
But more than just these bits of graphical padding (zing!), Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 reshuffles a handful of the boss battles. There’s still a fair amount of same-y feeling boss fights, and they still come at poorly paced intervals, but it does at least try to alleviate some of the repetition. Unfortunately, it’s a futile endeavor. For every giant gorilla monster or evil statue you defeat, three more pop up later to take their place.
Most disappointing is that Ninja Gaiden 2’s poor level design is left untouched in Sigma 2. It’s difficult to tell which direction you’re supposed to go through a level, so in a cheap attempt to remedy the problem, Team Ninja mapped a button press to a camera that points you in the right direction. But even then, the camera is frequently wrong or just plain confusing. In a well-designed level, you shouldn’t be aware that you’re being led in a particular direction. It should just “feel” like the right way to go, but that feeling is almost completely absent.
Supposedly the combat camera has also been improved, but it still gets in the way often enough that it’s difficult to gauge how much it’s actually been retooled. This was a problem in Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox, and it was a problem again—though slightly less so—in Ninja Gaiden Sigma on PS3. The camera was worse in Ninja Gaiden 2, so even if Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 does have an improved camera, it isn’t anything to brag about.
[image3]Also new to the game are the above-mentioned lady-ogling levels. The levels are short redesigns of existing levels, and you only have access to one weapon in each of the three new levels. There’s no reason why these characters shouldn’t be available through the whole game, but instead we’re left with only these small tastes. As it is, these levels are total throwaways probably meant to convince lactophilic males to check out the game’s large, uh, “assets".
But the most substantial additions are the Team Missions. Similar to the single-player score attack mode, these co-op levels are leaderboard competitions that take place in small sections of campaign levels against a predetermined enemy spawn pattern. Going for high scores on your own is great fun for score hounds, but it’s hard to see the appeal of going for a co-op high score, especially since there’s no local co-op play. Not just that, but the introduction of co-op play makes the lack of a full-fledged co-op campaign mode all the more glaringly absent.
For each thing that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 adds to its 360 counterpart, it takes something away. Textures are improved, but it’s missing blood. It adds online co-op, but not offline. Boss encounters have been changed up, but they’re still painfully repetitive. Mysteriously, the Tests of Valor fights have also been axed from this version.
No matter how many large, bouncing virtual breasts you put in my face, it doesn’t disguise the fact that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is a muddled experience. Not only is the gameplay starting to feel dated—especially in the wake of Batman: Arkham Asylum’s brilliant combo system—but the few small additions simply aren’t enough to offset the handful of surprising oversights and omissions.